ESP/EGP Distinction: Is it Real?

I have been supervising MA TESOL and Applied Linguistics students this summer as they write their dissertations and I have most recently been marking them. May of the students have focussed on ESP (both EAP and EOP) for their research, but most of them have concentrated on general English (EGP).  I also attended a Business English conference in the summer. I saw some interesting presentations at the conference  and have have seen some interesting MA studies and it has made me realise that the distinction between EGP and ESP may not be so clear.

Many general English teachers or courses seem to take the needs and interests of the students very seriously and try to tailor the courses to match these needs. They consider what they are doing to be general English.  In contrast many ESP (EAP and EOP) courses or teachers do not. They often seem to take a published EOP or EAP textbook and use it without a proper needs analysis. They think that is what ESP is. I have often wondered why, for example, English for hotel workers is considered to be ESP, but English for tourists staying in the hotel is not!

So it would seem to me that the important distinction we need to make is not between ESP and EGP, but between teachers and courses that take the interests and needs of their students seriously and those that do not.

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